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Forecast: 'Captain' Sets Sail, Will Trail 'Gravity' This Weekend

by Ray Subers
Captain Phillips
 

 
October 10, 2013

Captain Phillips faces off against Machete Kills this weekend, though neither will come close to grounding surprise blockbuster Gravity.

After opening to an October record, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity has played extremely well throughout the week and has already grossed $73.8 million (though just six days!). While the movie's good word-of-mouth isn't quite on par with its fantastic reviews, the word does focus around the fact that the movie must be seen on the big screen. That's a powerful endorsement, and suggests Gravity will have a light second weekend drop.

Around the same time last year, fellow Warner Bros. release Argo only dipped 16 percent in its second outing. A more reasonable comparison may be The Social Network, which opened on the same weekend in 2010 and fell 31 percent on word-of-mouth that was a tad less effusive than its reviews. If Gravity experiences the same decline, it will finish the weekend with over $38 million, which will easily be good enough for first place (and puts the movie on pace for a finish north of $200 million).

With Gravity likely to wind up between $35 and $40 million this weekend, is there room left for Captain Phillips, which is also geared towards an older audience? First, it's important to recognize that the rest of the field is incredibly weak right now; aside from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Machete Kills, no other titles are going to earn over $5 million this weekend. Also, while Captain Phillips is getting great reviews (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a ton of awards buzz, its appeal stretches far beyond that.

Playing in 3,020 theaters, Captain Phillips has received a broad marketing push that's emphasized the movie's real world thrills and fascinating true story, which involves a freighter ship being taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. While he curiously does not appear on the movie's official poster, star Tom Hanks has also been a major part of the movie's campaign. Hanks hasn't had a legitimate hit in a while, though he's still one of the biggest stars in the world, and a role like this is close enough to his wheelhouse. Finally, the marketing has made mention of Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass, which should help convince audiences that the thrills showcased in the previews carry over to the full movie.

With so much going for it, Captain Phillips has clearly piqued the interest of many moviegoers; Sony reported that last Saturday's preview screenings were 75 percent full, which is a very strong figure (and also will add to the bottom line this weekend). Still, recent history movies like this don't necessarily open huge—for example, Zero Dark Thirty debuted to $24.4 million in January despite having some very loud buzz.

Sony is expecting an opening in line with Argo, which also dealt with a true story hostage crisis and debuted to $19.5 million on the same weekend last year. However, Fandango is reporting that Captain Phillips is out-selling Argo through the same point, and with a boost from Tom Hanks—who is undoubtedly a bigger draw than Ben Affleck—it's likely that Captain Phillips opens over $20 million.

At 2,538 theaters, Machete Kills opens over three years after the first Machete, which was a spin-off of sorts from 2007 movie Grindhouse. Thanks to its connection to Grindhouse, there was a lot of buzz surrounding Machete's opening; unfortunately, it never really found a theatrical audience, and closed with a meager $26.6 million.

At this point, it's hard to imagine that Machete Kills even matches its predecessor. The sequel's aesthetic seems to be less "grindhouse" and more "direct-to-video," and the joke seems to have run its course. To compensate for this, director Robert Rodriguez loaded the movie with all kinds of stunt casting, including Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson and Carlos Estevez (aka Charlie "Winning" Sheen). That strategy didn't work for April's Scary Movie 5—which opened to a new franchise low—and it probably won't work here either.

There is a possibility, though, that Latinos give this movie an unexpected boost. The title character is distinctly Mexican, and Sofia Vergara's participation will also generate a lot of interest. Still, Latinos tend to gravitate towards horror and family movies (animation and Instructions Not Included), and it's hard to imagine they'll be enthusiastic about the uber-violent, self-reflexive content in Machete Kills.

The first Machete opened to $11.4 million in its first three days, which is a number Machete Kills probably won't match. Open Road Films acquired distribution rights for $2 million and suggest the movie will be a success for them if it opens to at least $8 million thanks to above-average ancillary revenues.

Relativity Media is releasing the umpteenth big-screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at 461 theaters this weekend. It's the first movie starring Hailee Steinfeld (as Juliet) since her break-out role in 2010's True Grit; otherwise, there's not much about this movie that stands out. Teenage fans of The Bard may give this a look, though ultimately this may not even make the Top 10.

Meanwhile, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete is opening at 147 theaters. Jennifer Hudson could be a bit of a draw, though it would be very surprising if this Lionsgate release opened over $1 million.

Finally, Fox Searchlight's Enough Said is expanding nationwide to 606 theaters. It has already earned over $6 million, and could add close to $2 million or so this weekend.

Forecast (October 11-13)

1. Gravity - $41 million (-27%)
2. Captain Phillips - $24.1 million
3. Cloudy 2 - $13.4 million (-36%)
4. Machete Kills - $8.8 million

Bar for Success


Long-term, Captain Phillips is the kind of movie that's going to hold very well; still, it's unreasonable to expect it to play as well as Argo, so it really ought to be making at least $20 million out of the gate. With a major marketing effort—and considering how front-loaded it will be—Machete Kills needs at least $10 million this weekend.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

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